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I’ll Drink to That: Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon of Champagne Louis Roederer

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Episode 325 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently. It features Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, the Executive Vice President of the Roederer properties and the Chef de Caves at Champagne Louis Roederer.

Sometimes you hear comments in the wine-o-sphere along the lines of “minerality in wine doesn’t exist,” that “grapevines have no mechanism for absorbing materials from the soil they are planted in,” etc. Definitely those are things that are said, and by very, very smart people. But it does give one pause when considering the merits of those points if the head winemaker for Louis Roederer’s “Cristal” Champagne, one of the most well-recognized luxury brands in wine, states that he has gone back over a century of data and the thing that has defined the Cristal selection is the very high percentage of chalk in the vineyard parcels used for it. So much so that Jean-Baptiste has organized his entire winery workflow around which parcels are chalk and which are mostly not. It isn’t the grape variety that matters for Cristal, as he states in this interview that the percentage of Pinot Noir to Chardonnay changes with the year, it is the chalk. The bedrock of one of the world’s most successful luxury brands, according to the man responsible for the product, is chalk. Definitely a point worth considering when thinking about minerality, but then this interview is full of things to think about, from an in-depth discussion of different Champagne villages to the question of why wines from biodynanic grapes need less sulphur in the winery (they come in more reductive, says Jean-Baptiste). In fact it is sort of fascinating to hear from a winemaker who specifically plans wines from the grape level: if such a vine is planted in such a spot, says Jean-Baptiste, it will give a grape that can make a particular sort of wine. Yes, that is a terroir definition, but how many people really can articulate the specifics? Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon makes it clear in this interview that he is capable of doing so, and hearing him do it is pretty fascinating.

Listen to the stream above, or check it out in iTunes.

I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @levi_opens_wine